Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 4

"After all, I've practiced endlessly for this day!"

ajthefourth:  We all know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”  However, this latest scene in the story of Ringo’s destiny was anything but perfect for her.  Taking the previous two episodes into account, it was already clear that Ringo’s actions were premeditated; in her words, they were fated or destined.  An interesting side effect of specifically using the word practice is that it implies that Ringo is doing something a bit differently than simply following along with what the diary tells her to do.  In a way, it casts a different light over her actions, making Ringo an actress who has been given a role to play.

This idea is played up for comedic effect in grand fashion during this latest episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, but also carries with it an interesting connotation.  If Ringo is the actress, she takes this specific role of lovestruck teen in a fated relationship most seriously, to the point where she bends her interpretation of what is written in the diary to fit what actually happens.  Putting this aside for a moment, the confident attitude that Ringo projects doesn’t stop her from practicing for her various scenes that the diary has spelled out for her.  This could insinuate that Ringo herself has a few doubts with what exactly is written in the diary, and how it is supposed to be carried out.  After all, if everything is fated, then why practice?

Taking this one step further, if Ringo is the actress and the diary is a script, then who is the director?  Several times, we see Ringo tell herself that failure is not an option, referring to carrying out the diary’s plans as a mission.  If so, then who has given her this mission to ensure her place as Tabuki’s love interest and why?  Following her desperate attempt to force Tabuki into kissing her by diving into a lake (forcing him to save her with CPR), it appears that Ringo will drown.  As she begins to accept this, we see Ringo’s mind flash back to being a child and hear her apologize to her mother.  Towards the end of episode three, we also heard her talking to her mother via text message, telling her that she had eaten curry with friends; however, curry tasted the best at home.  This could be a bit of a stretch, but perhaps her family, or at the very least her mother, has something to do with her burning desire to carry out this mission that has been given to her.

vucubcaquix: Ringo the actress isn’t necessarily contrary to the idea of Ringo the believer.  The Diary being a scripture isn’t precluded by it also being a kind of script.  In fact, we have a crystal clear instance of Ringo misinterpreting her script/ure after being resuscitated by Shouma, only to come to believing that her fated Tabuki was the one to kiss her.  The script calls for a kiss at 4:00, but never explicitly states who is the one to kiss her.  She fills in the gaps and interprets the valuable part of this scripture by filling in blanks that weren’t clearly and distinctly perceived by her.

This episode to me seems like an extension of what we stated in our previous colloquium about the dangers of the misinterpretation of venerated words, except that there’s an added layer of theatricality to be considered.  The extremist groups I had mentioned, in addition to the countless others that I did not, have all relied on a manner of theatricality regarding the central personalities of their various dogmas. This ensures that the disparate communities that are attracted to the presumably dangerous messages that are being espoused are held together. What leaves me confused, however, is whether Ringo is the central personality in these proceedings, or whether as stated by my partner above, she herself is being manipulated into following and performing and executing these actions at the behest of some other charismatic figure.

"I've already planned our next move."

ajthefourth: We’re given a hint as to who may be pulling the strings by once again looking at actions surrounding what has been written in the diary.   In episode two, the diary states that she found a swallow’s nest, and that Tabuki was surprised when she showed him the picture.  If one pays close attention, the two statements aren’t actually linked in any way, and the picture being of the swallow’s nest is an assumption on Ringo’s part.  This ties into the validity of the diary itself, and Ringo’s interpretation (or misinterpretation) of what it has to say.  Looking at episodes three and this past episode, the diary takes this disassociation one step further by  introducing a random occurrence along with what is supposedly to happen between her and Tabuki, almost as if to provide a minute detail to support the idea that everything is fated.  A cat randomly appearing, Kanba’s ex-girlfriend (the girl in red heels) being pushed down the escalator, all of these things are out of Ringo’s control, and serve as corroborating evidence that the diary is fate.

However, towards the end of this episode, it seems like one of the yet to be introduced characters from the OP is pulling the strings.  We hear her talking with Kanba’s ex-girlfriend over the telephone, saying that they need to strike at him quickly.  Later, after the ex suffers a “fated” fall down an escalator, we see the black-stockinged feet of this character surveying the scene.  If she is the one behind this, one has to wonder why.  In addition to this, she appears to be familiar with Kanba, possibly intimately based on what we know of his character, and seems to bear a grudge against him.  At the very least, she possesses a desire to get in the way of his plans, and is willing to dredge up others’ old relationships and possible hard feelings, to do so.

"You're due for some divine retribution some day."

vucubcaquix: Not once was it mentioned by Kanba’s ex-girlfriends that they knew what he was looking for. In fact, the entire scene is played for comedic effect when Kanba exclaims that the encounter must be divine retribution, calling back to Shouma proclaiming his brother’s due. In fact, the scene in the beginning of the episode setting up Kanba’s day foreshadowed the meeting in the restaurant and the message he received that presaged it, which in turn foreshadowed the scene at the end of the episode where Kanba’s ex-girlfriend was assaulted at the escalator. All of these scenes in particular were directly influenced by our mysterious girl in black stockings, which may very well tie in to the idea that the diary is more intrinsically linked to her than it is to Ringo.

These three aforementioned scenes (Shouma’s comment, the restaurant, the escalator) make up the backbone of the episode that thrusts the plot of the narrative forward, whereas the scenes in the park serve as added characterization for Ringo’s character. But the scenes concerning Kanba and the girl in black stockings are the ones that audience will fixate on this coming week, as the details regarding this mysterious girl and her connection to Ringo, Kanba, and the diary will be made known to us.

The girl in black stockings.

ajthefourth: The introduction of this black stockinged girl from the OP is definitely the thing that captured my attention and made me excited for next week’s episode.  Honestly, I’m hoping to see the main focus of the series shift from Ringo to some of the other main cast members, specifically the Takakura siblings.  As I stated in last week’s discussion, I’m particularly interested to learn more about Himari, her past, and her relationship with her brothers.  I was a bit disappointed that this was another Ringo-centric episode; however, I liked a lot of what this episode had to offer regardless, especially with Shouma’s reactions to Ringo’s ridiculousness.

vucubcaquix: An episode that seems very light on first glance has some deceptive depth to it. I’m also looking forward to learning more about this girl with the black stockings, as she seems like the type of character that makes an impact wherever she goes. I suppose we’ll just have to wait a week, eh? Have a good night, Emily.

ajthefourth: Have a lovely night, David.

20 Comments

Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

20 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 4

  1. Thanks for the comment on our ep4 wall, translator for Penguindrum here.

    Black stockings/pants is a really good catch. The way they executed it was an obvious misdirection + shock effect, so I knew Ringo wasn’t the culprit, but I totally missed her leg in that scene (I tend to pay more attention to audio, as can to imagine). I’ll be looking forward to introduction of new characters in coming episodes.

    For this episode, I just want to comment that there wasn’t “Seizon Senryaku” this week, so there’s about 3~4 extra minutes of video that needed to be drawn. I really liked how Ringo’s imagination cardboard cutout play was used to cut costs in certain scenes to finance and maintain the high quality animation in other scenes.

    I’ve actually been following your blog since ep1, but never commented because I didn’t really have anything to add. It’s always a great read. Keep up the good work :D

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Ooh, those are some good points about the art direction. All too often I get caught up in the beauty of the visuals and don’t really think about the budget as much (exceptions are instances of sakuga) so that’s a good insight, although I did miss “Seizon Shenryaku!”

      As for the black stockings catch, we both owe that to having watched it together. I noticed the black stockings framed by the falling girl’s hair and David put two and two together, tying it into the girl from the OP (and therefore the silhouetted girl on the phone).

      Thanks for following our blog! It means a lot!

      vucubcaquix: The cardboard cutouts also do a wonderful job of reinforcing the fairytale motifs that were being set up from the very first episode, and while some felt it worked and others didn’t, we ourselves were entertained by the ridiculousness of the proceedings.

      I had suspected that the girl who had pushed her down the escalator was the very same one from the OP, so I re-checked the moment she was pushed, and lo and behold, in that frame you can see a pair of arms that are wearing the same brown jacket.

      We appreciate you stopping by and letting us know you enjoy our posts! It literally wouldn’t be possible without the effort you put into translating the series in a timely manner, so thank you!

  2. Penguin drum the musical! Ah Ringo’s daydreams were quite funny to watch, but became a bit to annoying near the end but that horse on the subway train?! Awesome that scene really made me laugh. Of course the highlight for me would be the penguins, like the perverted one and the hungry one damn that one can eat all day.

    So is it safe to say Ringo’s diary has some supernatual power? Sure seems that way to me not really a “death note” but maybe something similar?

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: I enjoyed those scenes because they were, at their heart, humorous, dumb, and ridiculously girly. Having been a high school girl, I can completely relate to spacing out over a crush and imagining all sorts of weird and crazy things. Perv penguin (No.1) is still my favorite, and I love how the penguins really are beginning to mirror their partners’ personalities (i.e. No.1, Kanba’s penguin, looking up all of Kanba’s ex-girlfriends’ skirts as they are confronting Kanba in the restaurant).

      I’m not sure if Ringo’s diary has any sort of power, but based on her attitude towards it, I’m thoroughly convinced that it was given to her by someone and that she didn’t write it herself. We shall see. Thanks, as always, for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: Fosh, you and I were cracking up at the same spot with the horse on the subway. Oh man, I can’t even imagine the smell.

      About those penguins, #1 is the perv penguin because Kanba is the womanizer. #2, the hungry one, is like that because Shouma is the cook (remember when his brother teased him about making a good wife one day?).

      About the diary having magical powers, it sure seemed like that at first. But things keep messing up to the point that maybe what’s actually happening is that Ringo convinced herself it was a “destiny note” or something and is making all these things come true herself. We’ll see. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. So I was watching Legally Blonde tonight and Professor Stromwell made this statement, “The law leaves much room for interpretation — but very little for self-doubt.” (this was around the part where Aristotle’s “The law is reason free from passion.” was on the chalkboard)

    Of course, law in a sense of moral legalities is less interesting in this case, but what about laws of the universe, such as a law of fate, and the interpretation. Mm, it was clear in this episode that Ringo was taking the most ambiguous meaning from the diary at times, much to the satisfaction of her destiny, but I wonder of the consequences… enough, I’ve had enough of Ringo for now, and I think it’s become more clear that she is generally misguided or delusional. How that plays into the Penguindrum will be interesting, because for the most part it seems she has been assimilated as a piece to a puzzle.

    Also, I think I was tripping Nicaraguan bananas the last part of the episode; will watch again. ^^

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Oh Ryan, I have looked forward to responding to this comment since you mentioned writing it a few days ago.

      I actually really love the quote you brought up here (and as an aside, also the movie “Legally Blonde”) as it applies well to Ringo’s diary. The words themselves leave a great deal of room for interpretation; however, Ringo is only able to carry them out because she believes so firmly (in a way that does border on delusion) that she can carry out exactly what the diary tells her will happen.

      The only moment of self-doubt that we see Ringo have is when she’s about to drown in the lake (through her own machinations). She is eventually saved by someone who she thinks is Tabuki. We, as the viewer, discover that the person who saved her is in fact Shouma. This presents an interesting contrast between what Ringo believes happened and what actually happened. In the past, she was always stretching the meaning to fit the words of the diary; however, in this instance, she fully believes that it’s her interpretation of the diary’s words that actually happened, despite the fact that the reality is quite different. Interesting stuff to think about!

      I too have had enough of Ringo, not because I find her particularly misguided or delusional (I still think that there’s a driving force or person behind her actions) but simply because I find other characters more interesting; Himari in particular, I would very much like to learn more about her.

      vucubcaquix: Aw man, I haven’t seen Legally Blonde.

      Actually, I myself have not had enough of Ringo just yet. It may be too soon for this from a storytelling perspective, but I think there can be lots of pathos to be mined from the character if she comes to the realization that either fate is not immutable, or that these actions have been occurring because of her own efforts. How will her character react to that kind of realization? She’s already somewhat unhinged with the security that the diary supposedly affords her, but she could very well go off the deep end if she feels her life’s devotion was misguided.

      Then we’ll REALLY see some interesting directions in the plot.

  4. Very shrewd observation about the stockings. I noticed that the three girls say Kuho called them all, and Kanba says “Asami did”? I don’t remember what the name was of Kanba’s ex-girlfriend mentioned an episode back, but it might have been Asami Kuho.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Thank you! As said previously, we realized it by bouncing thoughts off of one another (a fantastic example of why, sometimes, it’s better to watch anime with others, haha).

      I think you’re right with red-heeled girl being named Asami Kuho. There is a relationship chart scan floating around somewhere on the internet w/ all of the main and periphery characters and their relationships. It’s not spoilery (I’ve been sequestering myself from spoilers since I want to be either proven right or completely wrong with my deductions…hehe). Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: If you’re interested in checking out this relationship chart, go here: http://ninteenpointzerofour.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/penguinchart.jpg

      It goes straight to the image, but fair warning: the rest of the blog has some significant spoilers since she’s working on translating the accompanying novels, I believe.

  5. Terrible episode by this show’s standards, which means I still liked a lot of it, but am disappointed in many ways. The musical reveries seem very weak compared to their predecessors from RGU, which Ikuhara will have to suffer comparisons of this work with, since he freely draws from the same bag of tricks that made that show good.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      vucubcaquix: You know, this is the first time I can sincerely say that it was fortunate that I haven’t seen Utena yet. Without that filter through which to view this work, I found the episode to be very entertaining since I have no measuring stick to compare it to. There is strength in being able to draw from the creator’s previous work in order to compare and reinforce the messages he’s trying to convey, but there’s a certain strength in the willful naivete as well I feel.

      ajthefourth: I too felt a bit lackluster about this week’s episode in comparison to the three weeks prior, but looking back on it, this episode has given me a bit more to think about in regards to Ringo’s diary, and I owe that to the presentation of the fake theatrical numbers inside Ringo’s head.

      When comparing the two, I agree that Utena’s musical numbers and more nonsensical episodes thus far were better. However, as my partner so succinctly reminded me when I expressed annoyance over this episode, Penguindrum still has the rest of the series to continue to wow us. It’s hard, but I’ve been trying to avoid referencing Utena directly in blog posts in order to evaluate this a bit more on it’s own (despite the fact that I bring with me to each viewing a filter through which I have seen Utena and compare the two constantly).

      Then again, my lovely partner hasn’t seen the glory that is Utena. Thanks for the comment.

      sidenote: we each wrote our response to you simultaneously over skype and we sent it to each other at the same time. we totally didn’t expect it to sync up as well as it did. in fact, Emily’s words: “Oh my god we’re so creepy.”

  6. jreding

    Ringo’s misadventures, as you, ajthefourth, I think mentioned on another blog which I can’t find again, remind a bit of Nanami’s futile attempts to bully Anthy in RGU. Nanami and Ringo are also similar in that they both are somewhat delusional.

    Actually, Nanami is one my all-time favorite anime characters. I have a penchant for characters who fight very hard for a completely lost cause. This goes for Nanami’s love for Touga but as of yet the same seems to be true for Ringo’s relentless pursuit of Tabuki (other examples imo are Ume from KnT, Saori from Hourou Musuko and Asuka of NGE although the latter doesn’t fight for a love interest).

    For me, personally, the cowbell episode and the egg episode are the best episodes out of the total of RGU, all of which I really adore. In particular the cowbell episode in my interpretation illustrates some sort of a mental breakdown of Nanami’s letting her escape from her stressful and constantly failing pursuits into a completely passive role (the “Dona Dona” part is another thing). I was reminded fo that a bit during the scene when Ringo thought she was drowning; she didn’t think about how this could possibly fit into her “destiny schedule” but just let this delusion slip and thought about her childhood. I could write an essay on my thoughts on Nanami’s the egg episode but here I just leave it with the point that Nanami in my opinion may seem to be ridiculous at first but actually has emotional depth like few other anime characters.

    So far, I think that we only saw a superficial and not completely believable picture on Ringo’s personality. The interesting thing would be to see what really drives her to these lenghts and what impact it has on her that she is constantly drawing the short stick. So far Penguindrum has not gone very deep in terms of “psychology” (not that I have proper knowledge of psychology, but maybe you know what I mean!) and focussed on the comedic aspects and on the destiny theme. It may also well be that Ringo’s fate takes a turn to the good, e.g. that she marries Shouma and they live happily ever after. However, as much as I whish her good luck, I have to admit that I would be quite excited if we would see for Ringo some of the emotional depth I am attributing to Nanami!

    • I believe I mentioned it in a comment on “Star Crossed Anime Blog” in response to psgels pointing out the same thing. Prior to that, I had mentioned it on twitter.

      The reason why I made that connection is that (although the cow episode and egg episodes are both fun) the aforementioned episode remains my favorite Nanami-centric (and one of my favorite Utena) episodes.

      I honestly don’t have all that much to say because you’ve covered it pretty thoroughly! If you think about Nanami at this point (four episodes in) none of that emotional depth had been attributed to her yet. She was simply an annoying comedic relief character with a brother complex. It’s those later episodes, both comedic and her poignant scenes with Touga, that give her all of that depth. I agree that we would be incredibly fortunate to see Ringo given that similar treatment. It’s definitely possible, especially considering how easily it seemingly would be for her to descend into madness if/when faced with the fact that the diary may not be “fate.”

      If you want more Nanami love, Shinmaru has written an excellent post here.

      • jreding

        You are right, this was the other blog entry I had in mind. I may have better posted this there but I couldn’t remember on which blog I had read it.
        And thank you for the link to Shinmaru’s post; that post indeed is excellent!
        As a sidenote: After I wrote my comment it came to my mind that Ringo is in one aspect different from the other delusional characters I mentioned in my comment, in particular from Nanami: These characters at first sight appear to be quite unsympathetic and are rude or even harm other people. Ringo, by contrast, may be a stalker, but she is harming no one. In particular, Tabuki isn’t aware that she is stalking him; he actually seems to like her albeit maybe rather like a little sister. However, Ringo’s occasional mad smile and her obsessive behaviour may prepare us for something worse, whereas Nanami, as pointed out in Shinmaru’s post, rather turned from evil to kawaii relative to certain other RGU characters.

  7. Pingback: Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 5 | The Untold Story of Altair & Vega

  8. lol, thanks for the plug in the comments!

    Kind of surprised it took so long for someone to mention Nanami. The whole episode I was thinking, “Wow, Ringo’s behavior is SO Nanami!” The outrageous fantasies, the dramatic flourishes, the simplistic plans that have no basis in reality, and so on. Yet Ringo seems a bit more unhinged and fanatic than Nanami — probably because, as is pointed out here, she is essentially following her own form of scripture. She puts so much stock in it to lead her to the life she desires, whereas Nanami is just doing relatively harmless teenage girl scheming lol.

    • No problem! ^ ^ I’ll be responding to this myself since it’s spoiler-y.

      I said this somewhere before, and completely forget where, but I’ve been avoiding comparing Penguindrum and Utena as much as possible within the blog entries themselves, instead waiting for the comments section to really bust out the comparisons. Part of this is because David hasn’t seen Utena (although this will be resolved soon) and part of it is simply an attempt to judge the series on its own merit. Although I do concede Ghostlightning’s point that comparison is inevitable.

      Anyway, Ringo and Nanami. In Utena it’s easy to compare the actions of Touga/Nanami to Akio/Anthy with Akio/Anthy coming out as the more dangerous, influential, and powerful pair. Nanami is always relegated to the background, with her antics coming off as comedic, childish, and without the same malice or emotional power that Anthy’s have. I see Ringo possibly landing somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum.

      Ringo follows the diary’s instructions word-for-word to an obsessive and dangerous degree; however, not to the same extent or with the same power that Anthy wields. On the other hand, she’s not as powerless (or seemingly, innocent) as Nanami is.

      We shall see…thanks for the comment!

  9. Pingback: Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 19 | The Untold Story of Altair & Vega

  10. So on the note of ridiculous Penguindrum foreshadowing, half a year later–did anyone notice that the KIGA skunk in this episode directly foreshadows the organization’s involvement in the 95 incident?

    Farting on Ringo, wanted by the goverment…I guess it’s a bit like the penguins farting on the train, except several episodes earlier and inserted into a seemingly innocent and filler-esque comedy episode. It’s the sort of hint that you’d never catch yourself, but after rewatching the show you notice the connections and go “ohhhh, I see what they did there.”

    It doesn’t necessarily make the episode any better, but it is interesting Ikuhara was sneaking visual gags with several episodes worth of foresight into the show back in the early, fun-loving days where the most serious problem was Ringo’s obsession with Tabuki. Certainly casts the episode in a more sinister light–after all, no matter how hard Ringo tries to become Momoka and save her family, the memories of the 95 incident keep obstructing her path in the most embarrassing way possible.

    • I came across another reference in Episode 3, I think, where Ringo is carrying a pot of curry on the train and other passengers begin to complain about the smell (much like passengers did when the smell of sarin began to permeate the air during the 95 gas attacks). “Stop Physi-‘curry’ Odor,” was the train slogan that week.

      Honestly, I can’t wait to go back and rewatch this series in its entirety to discover just how many of these hidden references there are.

      Thanks for the insight, I had actually completely forgotten about the Kiga skunk. ^ ^

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